Persia, Anti-Semitism, Israel, and You
The Book of Esther
March 5, 2015
Before we begin our study we always have a few moments of silent prayer so we can make sure that we are in right relationship with God. When we sin we’re out of fellowship. We lose that on-going rapport with God. That needs to be recovered so we can walk by the Spirit. We do that by confessing sin, admitting or acknowledging our sin to God, and instantly we are forgiven or cleansed of all unrighteousness. So after a few moments of silent prayer, I will open in prayer.
“Father, we recognize that You are the God who created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. You are the God of history who oversees history and is working out history according to Your plan or purpose. You have declared the end from the beginning. Father, as we live out our lives, we recognize that we are to do so under your sovereign authority and care. Whether we are obedient or disobedient, nevertheless Your gracious love watches over us, provides for us, and cares for us. When we’re out of fellowship and disobedient, Your love through discipline brings us back. When we are obedient and following the Word, often we go through difficult times as You teach us and train us and discipline us to walk with You. Father, we pray tonight as we look at some critical things as citizens of this country and as those who are involved in wanting to understand the things in the world that might affect us, we pray that You will teach us, inform us, and instruct us from Your Word and that we might be challenged in terms of our own involvement in the affairs of the state and the affairs of the world around us; and that we may from that learned wisdom know how to apply Your Word in these different circumstances. We pray this is Christ’s name. Amen.”
I want you to open your Bibles with me to Esther. We’re not in 1 Peter tonight. We’re in Esther. Today is the Jewish festival of Purim. Pur is the singular. It refers to a lot, the casting of lots. The im ending is the plural in Hebrew; so purim means lots. One lot is a pur, and two or more would be purim. Actually, praim would just be the duo and refers to two.
Purim refers to the casting of lots because there’s a fascinating story that’s covered in the Old Testament: a Jewish heroine by the name of Hadassah. Hadassah was her Hebrew name. She’s more often known by her Persian name Esther. This festival, as celebrated around the world in Jewish communities, is a tremendous reminder of God’s providential care for Israel and His providential protection of Israel throughout the generations. God is always faithful to the Abrahamic covenant.
What I want to do tonight is cover three things in the time we have. First of all, a review of Hadassah or Esther, because this gives us a paradigm for God’s providential care as well as our individual responsibility. Those are two important doctrines that are often set in conflict with one another. Often people use the sovereignty of God as a rationale for not doing anything. “Oh, if God wants that done, it’ll happen.” Back in the early years of the modern mission movement, the founder of the modern mission movement was a British man by the name of William Carey who went to India. When he returned from India, he spoke at various Baptist Churches in England. At that time they were all hyper-Calvinistic. That is really a technical term, which means they do not believe it is necessary to ever give anyone the gospel. As he came back and related story after story of how he went to villages all over India and communicated the gospel, the response from the pastors was to look down their noses at him and say, “Young man, if God wanted to save the heathen He will do so without any help from you or me.” That’s hyper-Calvinism. It is the extreme saying that God runs according to His will. If He wants it done, He’ll take care of it. We don’t do anything.
The other extreme is that everything is up to us with an overemphasis on individual human responsibility. That in an extreme Armenian sense says it’s all up to every individual volition and it doesn’t have anything to do with God’s sovereign control at all. In the most extreme form, God almost does nothing in terms of the oversight of His creation and the human race, and it’s all up to individual human responsibility. Of course, in Armenians there is no true understanding of the gospel in my opinion, because it’s ultimately based upon works. Any time anyone thinks they can lose their salvation, that means somewhere hidden in all of their fallacious understanding of the gospel, you’ll find a hidden sense of works. They’re doing something to be saved.
In Esther, what we see is the outworking of God’s sovereignty over the Jewish people in the Diaspora, specifically in Persia. It was formerly known as Persia, but is now known as Iran. This has as much a direct impact on today as there was the attempt by the ancient Iranian government to completely and totally annihilate the Jewish people. We see one of the first examples of anti-Semitism rear its ugly head, and that dark shadow, that evil dark shadow that every now and then disappears from history for a while or goes into hiding, is now rearing its ugly head in many different ways and many different countries. It’s manifesting itself more and more in Europe. It’s manifesting itself in horrible ways in England. It’s manifesting itself in less obvious ways in the United States.
Trust me, if you do not think Israel today are still the people of God and distinctly the people of God and that God has a plan and purpose for the modern nation of Israel and you are anti-Zionist, then you are anti-Semitic. That is the cloak under which modern anti-Semitism in the west is developing. Sadly, that is prevalent among a lot of political conservatives, especially in the libertarian camp. I have argued against this for years. Esther refutes the libertarian position; and a number of evangelical positions say that God is not at all concerned about the modern state of Israel today and that God will only be concerned about them when they return to the land having accepted Jesus as their Messiah.
The reality that we see in Esther is that this concerns the group of Jews who stayed behind in Persia when Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest, had already taken a group of Jews back to the land. That was the divine mandate. The seventy years of discipline were up, and the mandate was to go home. Those who stayed behind were not obedient to God. So we’re dealing with a community that was not obedient to God. They were disobedient.
That’s why one of the reasons why when you read through the book of Esther, you don’t see God’s name mentioned at all. It’s the only book in the Bible that doesn’t mention the name of God, neither Elohim or Yahweh at all because God is not a focus in the lives of the Jewish people who stayed behind. Neither is prayer mentioned. They fast, but they don’t pray. There’s an absence of a spiritual emphasis in the Jewish community who stayed behind. It’s very important because what this is showing is that God is still true to the Abrahamic covenant and the outworking of the Abrahamic covenant and the outworking of the blessing and cursing motifs in the promises given in the Abrahamic covenant whether the Jewish people or obedient or disobedient to God. It has nothing to do with their spiritual condition. It has to do with God’s character and God’s faithfulness.
The first thing I’m going to do is talk about that because today is Purim and because I just returned from AIPAC, which is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The emphasis is on America. I want to take another sideswipe at some of my wrong conservative and libertarian friends. You need to pay attention. There is a man who has spoken at Pre-Trib numerous times, and he has taken several swipes at AIPAC for a couple of different reasons. One, because AIPAC supports a two-nation solution in Israel; and another because if you just scrunched up your face just then, you aren’t really informed. This really irritates me.
The other problem that he has brought up is that AIPAC got bamboozled, and I agree with this, they got bamboozled, and they got blackmailed basically by the Obama administration a couple of years ago when that stuff was going on in Syria. Then some things changed on the ground in Syria. Nothing happened but Obama trying to get a decision made in Congress to back Assad. I think that’s what it was, but it was to back him in the action he would take in Syria, and he shouldn’t have. So they got kind of bamboozled on that; but the reality is that AIPAC has a very specific mission. Their mission is not to affect the executive branch of the U.S. government. Their mission is to strengthen the American-Israel alliance with an emphasis on America.
A lot of people think, “well, they have a split loyalty.” That’s not true. They emphasize that what’s good for America is a strong alliance for Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East, and that Israel supplies so much for us in terms of technology, in terms of agricultural technology, in terms of computer technology, and in terms of intelligence of what’s going on in the Middle East among the Moslems and the extreme Islamic fascists. They also fight on the front lines of that battle. If it weren’t for Israel, we would be enmeshed in a horrible war in the Middle East. They stand there as our front line.
These criticisms that this individual brings that have influenced certain tea party members and hyper conservatives are wrong because AIPAC makes decisions in terms of the mission statement of their organization. The mission statement of their organization is to support the American-Israel alliance and not to get involved in Israel politics. If the administration of Israel, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, are in favor of a two nation-solution then AIPAC is in favor of that. They are not there to influence Israeli policy; they are there to strengthen the American-Israel alliance. And so they are often criticized by people who say they should be doing “this or that”, but “this or that” has nothing to do with the mission of AIPAC. So you have to pay attention to that. These are very unjust criticisms from those who really don’t pay attention to what the issues are.
I just returned from the AIPAC conference and of course, the major issue that’s on everyone’s mind today is Iran. There are usually a number of things that are a focal point at AIPAC, and when people from AIPAC go to lobby their congressional representatives and senators, they usually emphasize a number of different things. This time it was all about Iran. Most of the breakout sessions I went to were focused on Iran and what is going on with Iran. It’s very complex. We’re not always told the truth. We’re always told things are better. The narrative comes out, and the fantasy is often put in glowing terms that the American people will accept because they don’t have enough time to look deeply into those things.
First of all, let’s lay the groundwork because what we do and what we believe in comes out of the Word of God. We’re going to look at the book of Esther as a paradigm for political advocacy. It’s one of the most dramatic stories in the Bible. It is as John Whitcomb has written, “inspired, inerrant historically accurate, canonical, divinely authoritative, and theologically significant.” If you read a lot of the literature about Esther, the majority of scholars think this was a legend or something that was made up. This is historical. This is accurate. This is exactly what happened, and these are historical figures.
The title of the book is based upon the most significant individual involved, and that is Esther. Her Hebrew name Hadassah means myrtle. Her Persian name Esther probably derives from the Persian word for star although some suggest it may be etymologically related to the pagan goddess Ishtar. That would not be unusual. If you remember in reading Daniel 1, the names we use, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, are all Babylonian names that were given to Hananiah, Azariah, and Mischael. Those were their Hebrew names. They were given new names related to the pagan gods of Babylon. Daniel was given the name Belteshazzar for the god Bel. This is not unusual for the Jews in the Diaspora to have a Persian or Babylonian name related to the Babylonian or Persian pantheon.
This book is one of the five books that the Jews call the megillahs. It’s read every year on Purim, which is today. So in observant Jewish households they would read the entire book, and in many cases they would act it out and dramatize it. They had little noisemakers so that whenever Haman’s name was mentioned, they rattled the noise makers because he’s the bad guy and they hiss and they boo. If they act it out in a play, he wears a tri-corner hat. They make little pastries called hamentaschens, which means pocket in Yiddish, and it is a three-cornered pastry that is filled with strawberry or blueberry or dates or just about any kind of fruit filling you can think of. You can go over to Three Brothers Bakery, and they have hamentaschen just about every day. So there you can try that out. It’s kind of a fun holiday because they’re rejoicing over God’s protection of the Jewish people.
We don’t know who wrote Esther. It was probably someone very knowledgeable about Persian customs because they come out. It was someone knowledgeable about the Jewish diaspora in Persia and someone who probably returned to Judah after this event and wrote it primarily to encourage the Jews in Judah who were struggling to re-establish themselves; and it is a book written to encourage the Jewish people that God is still in their camp. God is still faithful to the Abrahamic covenant, and He is still protecting the Jewish people.
The author was well-versed in the Persian customs. He talks about in the first chapter, verse 14, seven royal advisers who saw the king’s face. This was his cabinet. They had a very well organized postal system that was like our pony express that rapidly dispersed announcements and anything that came from the king throughout the empire: the court practices of showing high respect for high officials as mentioned in Esther 3:2; the recording and rewarding of the king’s benefactors; the use of the king’s signet ring to sign documents; the irrevocable legal decrees that we read about also in Daniel; the laws of the Medes and the Persians were irrevocable, and the king has to obey it once it becomes law; the king’s horse wearing a royal crown in Esther 6:8; the practice of eating while reclining on couches is mentioned; and the fact that Persian kings did everything on a grand scale including, as we see in this book, a banquet that lasts for six months. That’s a long time. They really know how to party.
This person also seems to be an eyewitness, and even though there are some suggestions as to who may have written it including Mordecai, Ezra, or Nehemiah, we really don’t know. It really doesn’t matter. It was clearly revealed by God to teach something about His providential care. The time frame for Esther is in the middle of the 5th century BC. Let me just remind you of the time scale. 586 BC. You have the destruction of the 1st temple. The Jews are taken off into captivity in Babylon. Some Jews remain, but most of them are removed; and this is the time period for the book of Daniel. Then they return to the land under the first return under Zerubbabel in 538 BC. There’s a second return that occurs later under Ezra in 458 or 457. That time period then is between 538 and 457, so this is a period of roughly sixty or seventy years between those two returns. The events of Esther take place between those two returns, which basically means it comes between the 6th chapter of Ezra and the 7th chapter of Ezra which is in between those two returns to the land.
The book begins in 483 BC. We’re told this is in the 3rd year of Ahasuerus which is basically a rough Anglicization of the Hebrew name for Xerxes. That’s how he’s known by the Greeks. So this occurred in 483 BC. Esther became queen in Xerxes’ 7th year, mentioned in Esther 2:16, which was in 480 BC. Haman’s plot to annihilate the Jews comes not long after that, around 473 BC. The book covers a period of about ten years and the purpose is to emphasize how God is always faithful. He’s always faithful to His eternal covenant to Abraham, whether Israel is spiritually obedient or disobedient. Same as He is faithful to us, in keeping us and preserving us in our salvation, whether we’re obedient or disobedient. God will sometimes bless us when we are out of fellowship as He is providing for us as a father. Just as you as a father sometimes do good things for your children when they’re not obedient in order to woo them back into obedience. If that doesn’t work, then you are punitive in your discipline of your children. So we see here in this book an example of how God is dealing with a disobedient group of Jews who remain in Persia and did not obey the divine command to return to the land which God had promised to give them.
The book of Esther describes God’s sovereign and providential work in protecting his people from eradication by their enemies while they are outside of the land and in disobedience. It is an emphasis that under girds the entire book. It is written to demonstrate God’s faithfulness to His people despite their disobedience. It’s written to encourage the Jews who were in the land and struggling to rebuild their nation that God was still faithful to the Jewish people in providing for them. Also it was to provide a general encouragement to future Jews in the diaspora that God would continue to protect them and provide for them, and that the Jewish people will not be eradicated from history though they are living in the times of the Gentiles. That’s the application.
During the times of the Gentiles there would be numerous times when there would be these hostile actions taken by Gentiles against the Jewish people. There have been numerous pogroms which have been taking place over the centuries in an attempt to locally destroy and murder Jews. God promises they will never be eradicated and that He will fulfill His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
And then fourth, the book provides an explanation for the Feast of Purim. So we see here key doctrines of the sovereign providential protection of God for His people Israel. And by application it shows that God always sovereignly protects His people, whether they are Jews or whether they are Church Age believers. There’s also an emphasis on the grace of God, that God in His grace fulfills His promise to His people Israel and protects them whether they are obedient or disobedient.
Among the unique characteristics of the book, which is important for understanding what’s being argued here, is that as I mentioned earlier there’s no mention of God’s name. There’s no mention about prayer, the Law, offerings, or the miraculous. It’s not a book that’s emphasizing the positive spiritual condition of the people. The reason for that is that it is depicting this Jewish community which stayed behind as a somewhat moral but not a religiously obedient community. They have treasured their heritage and their ethnic background, but not their relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So the result is that God’s name doesn’t appear, but His hidden hand is behind the scene protecting the nation.
As we go through the book, we see that there are a number of dramatic twists and turns and unexpected events. There are eighteen unexpected reversals of action which occur. In all of that we see how God strategically manipulates events to His purpose in order to protect and defend His people, and to bring about His purposes. I’m just going to go through this in one of my typical overviews in about the next fifteen or twenty minutes so that we can catch what is happening in this book.
The first few chapters provide the background for the event. It introduces us to the main characters and the key events which God uses to provide protection for the Jewish people. In these first two chapters we see God working behind the scene to put His people in place so that when the time comes, He will be able to use them to thwart Haman’s plot to destroy and annihilate the Jewish people. In the first few chapters we’re introduced to four of the five main characters.
The first main character is the king of Persia. His name based on the Hebrew is Ahasuerus. In the Hebrew it’s actually pronounced Ah-hash-sheros. In the Greek it was Xerxes. In Persian it was Khshayarsha. [I didn’t sneeze.] He was the son of Darius the 1st. He died when his vizier, Artabanus, assassinated him. He’s noted in history because of his war where he tried to defeat the Greeks after they defeated his father, Darius. He won the Battle of Thermopylae. They just did a film on that called The Three Hundred. He burned Athens. Later he was defeated in naval battles at Plataea and Salamis. After that he went home. This event occurs between chapters 1 and 2.
Herodotus tells us that after that, he went home, nursed his wounds, and sought consolation in his harem. The harem is where Esther was housed by the time you get into chapter 2, so that fits within this tradition. We’re introduced to the second character who is Vashti, his queen. She refuses to let him turn her into a showpiece during this drunken orgy which has lasted for a week, even though he is the most powerful monarch on the planet at that particular time. Jewish tradition has a lot of different information about Vashti. I don’t know about it. It’s not in the Bible, not something we are certain of, but I thought I would relate it to you. They always treat Vashti in a bad light. They use her name commonly as a name for a dog or some other animal. She’s not looked upon highly. She’s looked upon as someone who was arrogant, who refused to submit to the authority of her husband, to wear her crown. She was to be paraded nude before all of his guests at this week-long stag party. She refuses.
Jewish tradition says she refused claiming that she was covered in leprous sores. One Meshach claims that she had grown a tail. It gets pretty far-fetched. She’s presented generally as one who lacked humility and refused to submit to her husband’s demand. She’s become something of a hero to the women’s rights crowd within the Jewish community. However, I don’t know how we can draw any of that from the Biblical text. It just doesn’t say. What the text says is that she refused to be put on display by her drunken husband. As a result, he basically fired her. He sent her off into seclusion, never to be seen or heard from again. Those are the first two characters, Ahasuerus and his queen Vashti. That sets things up.
He now needs a queen. So he’s going to have a beauty contest. Word is going to go out throughout the kingdom to find someone who can fit the bill. He’s going to have a Miss Iran contest and the winner gets him as the prize. So in chapter 2 we’re introduced to a man named Mordecai who is identified as the son of Jair, the son of Shimel, the son of Kish, a Benjamite. Now this isn’t the Kish who is the father of another well-known Old Testament hero known as Saul. But it reminds us of Saul. He’s a Benjamite. Suddenly our thinking is thrown back into that earlier period. What was Saul’s great failure? Saul’s great failure was he didn’t annihilate the Amalekites, and he left their king alive whose name was Agag. So by putting this in here, the author is bringing to our attention a little bit of a reminder about Saul, and that will play a role in a minute.
So we’re introduced in chapter 2 to Mordecai, and we’re told he has a cousin, the daughter of his uncle. Some people have said she’s his niece, but if she’s the daughter of his uncle, she’s his cousin, at least that’s how it works out in my family. Her Hebrew name is Hadassah. Her Iranian name is Esther, and she’s orphaned as a young girl. Mordecai raises her as his own daughter. What happens is that after they have this stag party in the first chapter, and Xerxes gets drunk and calls for Vashti to come out and parade herself in front of his guests, she refuses to do that. She is deposed, dismissed, and sent into exile as a lesson to all the women in Persia that they need to be subordinate and submissive to their husbands. Then he launched a full-scale search for a suitable replacement.
So the fifth key player is introduced. His name is Haman. He is the prototype in Jewish history of all anti-Semites. In Esther 3 we are told that “Haman, the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite [the last king of the Amalekites]…” To Jews they refer to all of their enemies as “amalek”. The Amalekites are the prototype of all those who are hostile to Israel so they have come to use that term to refer to all their enemies. Haman is a descendant of King Agag, and he has a history of anti-Semitism. He comes in, and he’s elevated to the second highest position in the land. He is so proud of himself. He preens. He has a bloated self-image.
He expects everyone to bow and scrape, but Mordecai does not bow and scrape. Mordecai recognizes him for what he is, and he’s not going to bow down to him. This just really gets under Haman’s skin. He’s going to blame the entire race of Jews for the disrespect that he believes he’s receiving from Mordecai. So he is the prototype of all anti-Semites who just racially blame the Jews for every evil. People like King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain and Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant Reformation, who became a rank anti-Semite towards the end of his life. Others include Adolf Hitler, the current ruler of Iran or Persia, the Ayatollah Khomeini, and the current president of Iran.
Haman comes in. He’s bloated and arrogant, a self-promoting prime minister; and he’s furious that Mordecai won’t show him the proper respect. He goes out and convinces Ahasuerus that there’s these people that are conspiring against him and they need to be annihilated and obliterated. That’s in Esther 3:8, “Haman came in and said to King Ahasuerus, ‘There’s a certain people scattered and dispersed [same as the diaspora in 1 Peter] in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from all of the peoples and they do not keep the king’s laws.’” He’s misrepresenting them as a lawless people, disrespectful. He is slandering them just because he hates the whole race. He says, “If it pleases the king let a decree be written that they be destroyed and I will pay 10,000 pounds of silver to those who do the work to bring it into the king’s treasury.”
The king’s problem here is that the king doesn’t do the proper investigative work to find out the truth. That happens with a lot of public figures. Look at what your congressmen or senator does. They are often men who have just been elected. I spent time the other day with Brian Babin who is a strong conservative from Congressional District 36, which is in the southern part of east Texas. It includes a little bit of Clear Lake and east to Jasper, all up through there. He’s a dentist, a solid guy. But dentists don’t have a lot of history in their background of foreign policy or of banking or of many of the other things congressmen are called upon to thoroughly understand and to investigate.
That’s an aspect of their work that we can have a role in by informing them and their staff. It’s amazing which is one of the things I’ve learned how much these guys have to rely on their staff. If they don’t have a good staff, they’re getting bad information. So this is a role that you and I can have as an advocate in getting the right information to the staff people to make sure they can make a good decision. Ahasuerus couldn’t make a good decision because he’s given bad information, and he’s trusting Haman.
The king signs this bill into law, and it’s irrevocable. This decree goes out through the whole land. Verse 13, “The letters went out by couriers [their pony express] into all the king’s provinces to destroy and annihilate all the Jews, both young and old on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month which is the month of Adar.” That’s this time. The first month is Nissan. That’s when you have Passover. Pesach will come up in April. That date was chosen by lot, by purim so that’s why it’s called Purim. This document goes out.
Mordecai learns about this in chapter 4; and Mordecai goes into deep grief, and he shows a public response. He makes a public show of grief over this unjust law. He doesn’t just sit at home and do nothing. He puts on sackcloth and ashes and goes as close as he can to the palace so that he’ll be noticed. Why does he want to be noticed? He’s a thinking man. He’s got to get word to Esther. He can’t just go in and talk to Esther. She’s in the harem, and no man can go in there. He knows that if word gets to her that he is in grief, that he’s all dressed up in sackcloth and ashes, that she will send a messenger out to find out what the problem is. He’s all prepared. He’s devised a plan, and he’s going to inform Esther of that plan through these messengers. He gets her involved in this.
In Esther 4:13–14 he gives her a challenge, saying, “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the Jews.” There are a lot of people who see horrible things going on, but they live in a fantasy world thinking that somehow this isn’t really going to affect them. When we have horrible fiscal policies that we’ve had for decades, and this country is in egregious debt that it’s in, that’s going to eventually come back and hurt everyone. When we have judges who are operating in judicial tyranny and flaunting the constitution, this is going to affect everyone. When we have a president whose Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Explosives are seeking to ban a common ammunition typically used for hunting, shooting, and target shooting, this is an egregious overreach, a violation of the 2nd Amendment. If they can’t ban the AR-15, you ban the ammunition. And that’s their approach to try to overturn and do an end run around the 2nd Amendment.
When you live in a world like that, you can’t avoid it. You can’t stick your head in the sand, and you can’t avoid being involved. To be uninvolved means you’re letting the bad guys win. To be uninvolved means you’re just going to accede to what the evildoers in our government wish to bring about. So Mordecai issues this challenge to Esther. “You can’t sit on the sidelines anymore, girl. Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place.” His point is that yes, God is sovereign, and God will protect us, but you are in a position where God has placed you. You have a responsibility and you can’t just say that God will take care of it so you’ll just pray about it, which is what a lot of Christians do.
Prayer is important, but you’ve been placed as a citizen in this country, and part of our responsibility as a citizen is to be involved. Not because you’re a citizen, but because you were born a citizen of this country. We used to call it good citizenship. Many of you had that as a category in your report cards when you were a kid. To be involved. To communicate with your congressman, with your senators. This isn’t activism. This is advocacy. It is standing up for the Constitution and the truth and making sure your representative is well informed and educated on the issues so that they can make a righteous decision when they vote on various things.
So this is what Mordecai is warning her. He says, “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” That is a classic statement. It has been as the titles for many books. You don’t know, maybe God placed you and your gifts and your abilities to be involved at whatever level, precinct level all the way up, for such a time as this. As busy as we are with our lives, we can’t afford to ignore the trajectory of this nation anymore. We can’t think, “well someone else has got to do it because I’m too busy.” If we’re too busy ten years from now, we may be under a Soviet-style law.
Today I read a report that in a town in Florida, there’s a church that’s been meeting in a coffee shop they own. They have worship services there on Sunday morning, and there have been county and state government officials that have been infiltrating their worship to see if they are doing something wrong. This sounds like something out of the Soviet Union. This is coming to a theater near you. We need to be involved. We need to be informed.
That’s what Mordecai is telling Esther that she needs to be involved. Esther replies to Mordecai, “Gather all the Jews that are present in Susan. Fast for me [no mention of prayer]. Neither eat nor drink night or day for three days. My maids and I will fast likewise. I will go to the king which is against the law and if I perish, I perish.” She’s putting her life on the line because she’s going to be an advocate for her people, just like Daniel. She’s thought of a plan, just as Daniel thought of a plan.
Remember when Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were having to eat the food the Babylonians mandated? Daniel says they couldn’t do that. He figured out a way to present a case to the person in authority. He’s advocating for the observant Jews in his group. He made a plan and he thought it out, and it was based on wisdom. That’s why these books are part of the wisdom literature in the Old Testament, part of the writings.
Esther has thought of a plan. She’s initiated it. She did her research. She’s figured out who Haman was. She didn’t just run into the king immediately and throw her case before the king. She thought about it. She planned it out. She thought about how she was going to dress that day. She got herself fixed up in her most attractive and beautiful way, and she went in to the presence of the king, hoping the king would recognize her and invite her to come and speak to him rather than consign her to death. The king recognized her and called her forward, and she had a plan. She told him what she wanted to do was invite him to come and have lunch with her that day, and to bring Haman.
You would think that at lunch that day she would then present her case. No, she’s patient. She’s building. She’s not like some of you who just want to run out and throw everything at somebody the first chance you get. She took her time to build the case and establish a relationship. She asked them to come back the next day for another luncheon. So the next day they were invited back and this just built Haman’s pride. Twice he’s invited to have lunch with the king and the queen.
He goes home and he is filled with all sorts of pride. Esther 5:9, “He goes out that day joyful and with a glad heart.” He goes home and calls for all his friends and his wife and tells them of all the riches and all this good recognition he’s getting. He said, “The queen invited no one but me to come in with the king to the banquet that she prepares tomorrow. I am again invited by the queen. Yet all of this avails me nothing as long as I see Mordecai, the Jew, sitting at the king’s gate.” He’s just so angry with him.
His wife then gives him this “godly” advice and says, “Build a gallows, fifty cubits high to hang Mordecai high.” Then go merrily to the king and to the banquet. The next morning Haman goes to the palace. What’s happened overnight is that the king couldn’t sleep. This was a God-ordained insomnia. The king couldn’t sleep, so he had one of his servants bring him the records of the palace to read to him and in doing so, he was reminded of Mordecai’s intervention that saved his life. So God is working behind the scene.
The king is reminded of Mordecai, and the next day he asks who’s out in the hall awaiting to have a meeting with him. He was told it was Haman and he said to call him in to give him some good advice. Haman came in. The king said, “If I want to honor someone, what should I do?” This is such an ironic twist. Remember the second greatest law in the Torah was to love your neighbor as yourself. So here’s Haman who loves no one more than himself. When the king says he wants to honor someone, all Haman can think is that the king is going to honor him. He thinks what he would want—a parade, an announcement about how great this person is and everything that has been done. They should be led through the city dressed in gold and purple, and everyone should come out and rejoice and be glad.
The king said, “That’s a great idea. I want you to do that for Mordecai.” Can’t you imagine how Haman felt at that moment? When he comes back to have lunch, Hadassah springs the trap. She has set him up. She comes to this second dinner party where Haman is going to be hoisted on his own petard. That means he’s going to blow himself up. Esther comes in, and she explains that Haman has tricked the king into issuing this decree to annihilate all the Jewish people, innocent people.
Xerxes is so shocked he runs out of the room. When he comes back into the room, Haman is in full panic mode. It looks like he’s attacking the queen as he’s begging her for his life. This just angers Xerxes even more, so he immediately assigned Haman to be hanged. Since the gallows have been built for Mordecai, they’re handy, so Haman is hanged.
Because the edict that has been signed has to go forth and there’s nothing they can do, Esther wisely suggests they have another law that allows the Jews to protect themselves, to defend themselves, and be allowed to take the life of anyone who seeks to attack them. This is what takes place, and on the 13th day of Adar, which was the appointed day, 75,000 enemies of the Jews are killed as they sought to attack them. During this time, many of the Persians converted and became Jews. They are protected.
Haman’s ten sons are all hanged on the same gallows, and Mordecai is elevated to a high position in Persia. He decrees that their story be commemorated as a festival and observed by all the Jews, and that’s the festival known as Purim. So what’s the point of all this? The point is that Esther, Daniel, Moses, and many others were advocates to people in positions of power to set forth the case.
We live in a time today when Iran is rearing its ugly head and doing everything it can to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran is a state that fosters terrorism, finances terrorism, and in just the last couple of years we have seen Iran heavily behind support for King Assad in Syria. They are fighting against ISIS, that’s true, in Iraq. We have a president that’s so wise because he thinks that if we ally ourselves with Iran rather than our traditional allies, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States, then we can defeat ISIS. This is what your president wants to do.
He has either a) committed to this already or b) he has decided to not make a decision one way or another which in default puts the United States as some kind of backdoor ally to Iran. This is one reason why they’re going soft with Iran on negotiations. Iran is led by Rhuani who is just evil and anti-Zionist and anti-Israel, and just as bent on the destruction of Israel as his predecessor, Ahmadinejad. This is the rule of law for Ayatollah Khomeini. I understand this morning he was rushed to the hospital. Maybe God is working and will take him out but he is bent on the absolute destruction of Israel.
In fact, one of the leaders of Iran tweeted not long ago that it took the Germans six years to annihilate six million Jews but if they get a nuclear bomb they can destroy six million Jews in six seconds. This is Iran. We are negotiating with Iran right now. I have a whole lot of other information which I’m not going to get to but I’ll cover as much as I can.
What we need to recognize is that God has a plan, but that plan includes our involvement. This issue of a nuclear Iran is not just an Israel problem. It is a United States problem. They may be the little Satan, but we’re the big Satan. Iran is investing a huge amount of money in research and development to get ICBM’s. There are only two reasons you want an ICBM. Number one, an ICBM has limited use. Its use is to carry a nuclear warhead. Period, over and out. Nothing else. Number two, you need it to get across the ocean so that it can deliver that nuclear warhead to the United States.
In the negotiations right now that are going on in Geneva, the Iranian ICBM program isn’t even being discussed because we are so weak and given so many concessions, and that’s one of the concessions, to not deal with it. Look at Esther. We know God is in control. We know the Jewish people are not going to be annihilated. We know what the end times are going to be, and Israel is not going to be turned into a radioactive wasteland. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be involved, because they’re not the only enemy.
If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, it is going to change the world. It will be an irreversible change; and the United States and Europe will be deeply threatened and intimidated. And so will the Arab world. The Arabs understand this. It was interesting how our president in all his wisdom came out and said Netanyahu offered no new solutions in his speech to Congress on Tuesday. At the same time Alan Dershowitz [see the article on Gatestone Institute] came out and said that the president must respond immediately to the new suggestions and the new plan that Netanyahu set forth on Tuesday. One person says it’s white and the other says it’s black. There have been several others who have written about the proposals, new proposals, which Netanyahu offered on Tuesday.
There needs to be a response to that. Part of that response needs to come from citizens who are informing, educating, and encouraging their representatives. Now most of y’all are living here in God’s country, in Texas. We have senators like Ted Cruz and John Cornyn who are signing off on the senate bills that are designed to strengthen the hands of the U.S. negotiators and the congress to take a stronger and more firm stance against Iran during the negotiations and not just to cave in and concede, which is basically which Europe wants to do. It’s Munich all over again. We have a role there.
I know I’m not just talking to people in Texas. There are many people who are not in Texas because this goes out over the Internet. There are many people who will listen to this who live in places like Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana, and Nebraska, who do not live in congressional districts where the congressmen are well informed on these issues. They need to be advocates for the truth. They need to be advocates, a source of positive true information, for their congressmen and their senators to make well-informed decisions. That’s part of our responsibility under our government to be involved as advocates for the truth.
We need to get to know our representatives and our senators. We need to find out who their staff people are. The staff people are sometimes more important than they are. You get to know that staff person, somehow, someway, send them e-mails, and introduce yourself. This is one reason why in the men’s prayer breakfasts I try to have state representatives, try to have our congressmen come and talk to us so we can develop those relationships. And some of you will take the point and you will make it a point to get to know them further and develop that relationship, so that when things come up like this policy to take away ammunition or immigration issues or issues related to Israel, that you can advocate and get solid information to your senator on these particular issues.
One of the things that is important in the current situation, as our president has said many times, we want to have a good deal with Iran or no deal. He says no deal is better than a bad deal, but he doesn’t define what a bad deal is; and he doesn’t define what a good deal is. What a good deal is not is what is politically beneficial to his administration. It’s not good just to have a deal so you can say you have a deal.
Here are some ideas that should be present in a good deal. A good deal means that there is intrusive verification and accountability in Iran that they have agreed to. This is a nation that for over thirty-five years has lied and deceived and has broken agreement after agreement after agreement, and there needs to be a very profound, intrusive protocol for verifiable accountability. If they fail, then immediately very egregious sanctions will go into effect. Second thing is that congress needs to pass legislation that will force the White House and the administration to get congressional approval on any agreement. I read last week that the White House is seeking to call it something else like a “work-in-progress” or some other pseudonym other than an agreement or a treaty so they don’t have to get congressional approval or congressional oversight.
There are two bills before the Senate. One of them, I think it’s the first, has been moved up to a vote next Monday night because of what took place on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. This is the Nuclear Free Iran Weapons Act of 2015. It’s Senate Bill 269. If you google S269 and AIPAC, you will get a synopsis of the bill, and you can look at it. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz have both co-sponsored that bill. It was originally written by Senator Kirk from Illinois and Bob Menendez, a Democrat. He gave a speech on Monday night that he just knocked out of the park. It was fabulous. This guy is definitely pro-Israel and understands what is going on.
The basic thing here is to hold the administration to the fire so they will insist that Iran is going to give complete information of everything they’ve been doing on their nuclear program. They are not only going to stop the centrifuges, they’re going to destroy centrifuges. It says they have to completely shut down the heavy water facility in Iran. The only reason you have a heavy water facility is so you can make plutonium so you can make nuclear weapons. It needs to be completely and totally destroyed. All of that needs to be part of any good bill.
The second bill is Senate bill 615 which just came out of committee last week. It is called the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, it’s also known as the Corker-Menendez bill. Currently it is co-sponsored by twelve senators, six Republicans, five Democrats and one Independent. Neither Cornyn nor Cruz have co-sponsored it yet, but both committed to it when we were in a meeting with them this last week.
Then the third thing is in terms of your representative. If you live in Poe’s district, Culberson’s district, McCall’s district, these guys are going to probably sign this letter. It’s the Royce-Engel letter calling for greater consultation by the administration for the Iran sanctions relief. This is set forth. You can just google the Royce-Engel letter. If you put Royce-Engel AIPAC, you’ll get that and you can read that letter. We need to encourage our congressmen and senators to do the right thing. We need to put pressure on the administration to do the right thing and not to give concessions and not to back off. That is exactly what has been going on.
Right now, according to several websites [Iranfocus.com, Iranwatch.org], Iran could use the approximately first generation centrifuges and theoretically they could produce enough weapon-grade uranium to fuel a single weapon warhead in 1.7 months. Now the president is saying that what we need to put into this is a one-year thing. Well, they’re already way beyond that. If they ramp things up, they could produce a nuclear weapon in 1.7 months there. There are more advanced IR2M centrifuges which they have about a thousand of at Natanz. If they ramped up, it would allow Iran to produce weapon grade uranium much more quickly, and they have a stockpile of low-enriched uranium that is sufficient right now with just a little bit of enrichment to fuel approximately seven nuclear warheads. They’re very close.
They’re within two or three months if they ramp it up. So this idea that the administration has that they want to have a one-year window is just foolishness. The problem is that too much of the west is living on an Iran fantasy that is totally false. Nobody in the administration in the west is seeking to break it down. What has to happen is we have to strengthen the backbone of the administration and strengthen the backbone of our leaders so we do not have another 1938 Munich moment. For those who are too young to remember, this is when Neville Chamberlin met with Hitler, got a signed agreement, walked out, and said, “We’re going to have peace in our time.” Over the next six years sixty million people were killed. In a nuclear age, six hundred million people could be killed, just because some people are too concerned about making money and about trade, about personal peace and prosperity right now to do what has to be done to hold the line to protect us.
For us as believers, no matter how dark it may seem out there, we have a God Who is in control. We can go to Him in prayer. The God who protected Israel at the time of Esther can protect us at this time. It’s remarkable what can be done. Just because God answers prayer doesn’t give us the right to absolve ourselves of responsibility to be uninvolved just because it’s uncomfortable or we’re too busy. We need to be involved. That’s our responsibility. God will open the doors and God will take care of the rest.
With our heads bowed and our eyes closed. “Father, thank you for this time we have to go over these issues and to be reminded of Your faithfulness, Your care for us. As scary as the world is, we know that You’re in control. We know we can relax. We can trust in You and sleep soundly at night because we know that You are taking care of things. We’re not trusting in man just because we’re involved in talking to political leaders. We’re just engaged in the responsibility that we can be at this time, as limited as that may be. Our trust is in You. Our trust is in You to provide for us, to protect us, and to give us the opportunity above all, to communicate why we’re confident and why we’re relaxed because we trust in You. You’re in control because our sins are forgiven because Jesus Christ has died on the cross for our sins. We need not fear death. We need not fear chaos or whatever might take place, because we know You have us held in Your hand. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”